If I Get Shot by the Police
If I get shot by the police, you should know that I wasn't a drug dealer,
an ex-felon, or an addict. Better still, you should know that it doesn't
matter. In my life, I met countless men and women who'd been in each of
those places. All had many things to teach me.
No matter what they say if I get shot by the police, I wasn't brandishing
a firearm. I wasn't being aggressive. I may have been listening to music
with a beat, but I wasn't a thug. I repeat: I wasn't a thug. Of course,
nobody can be reduced to a slur.
Who is a thug anyway? A boy-made-man
by violent urban divestment? A boy whose image-world became a temple of
saccharine Eurocentric consumerism? A boy who saw no intelligent visions
of himself? An exile whose neighborhood was run-down, torn-down,
rebuilt, and gentrified without him inside? Know that I tried to make a
difference in these issues. I tried to add my nuts and bolts to Lowell's
scaffold of truth.
If I get shot by the police, it won't be called a Musician Shooting, a
Composer Shooting, or a Vocalist Shooting. The headlines won't say Orator
Shooting, Scholar Shooting, Pianist Shooting, Superb Cook Shooting, or
Loving Uncle Shooting. The headlines won't mention me at all. They'll say
Police Shooting, as though it makes no difference whether I was a man or
a fire hydrant; as long as I got shot by a badge.
Your television set won't say an author was shot by the police this
evening. Only a man, a suspect, or a resident. I won't have an occupation,
because that evokes dignity and worth. Only the police will be named by
their occupation; to shoot defective humans like me. The newsreels will
make real this fantasy. Don't buy the spin if I get shot by the police.
I won't be gunned down, because gunning down affirms the victim.
Shooting affirms the perpetrator. Police officers get gunned down, but
others just get shot by them. Equal tragedy will get unequal rhetoric.
Beware of this if I get shot by the police.
There will be no context if I get shot by the police.
I'll be an anomaly. A trivia. A statistic. Time will
pass. I'll be uttered at someone's kitchen table during a TV commercial:
Remember the guy they shot that year? No, the other one. Your local paper
won't situate me in the history of police brutality. It won't be delivered
with shrink-wrapped Cliffs Notes to the legacy of American ethnic
Every February, if I get shot by the police, I won't be acknowledged on
the intercom at your local grocery chain. I won't appear next to
sanitized, neutralized, and unrealized caricatures of Carver, Parks, and
King. I won't be in the fifteen-second-spots on your local network
affiliates that celebrate Black History. I won't be a topic as
politicians remind us just how far we've come. The media will close-up
the present as they trumpet closure of the past. You can bet on that if
I get shot by the police.
There will be no justice if I get shot by the police. My shooter will
get paid administrative leave. They'll rush before a conduct committee;
union-approved with citizens removed. If they are exonerated, no charges
will be filed. If they are reprimanded, no charges will be filed. If
they are white, race won't be a factor. If they aren't white, the question
will be profane. Colleagues will give interviews, and be glad to have
the officer back in action. Their family will be made a highlight of
the difficult ordeal.
I will be silent; beyond the chamber of fiction. A
never-was-didn't-happen casserole in the atrophied kitchen of critical
vision. A raindrop in the flooding genetic memory of some chocolate
infant, unreal and unacknowledged in the tribulations of his tomorrow.